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Bus Stops Go Solar for Lighting, Safety

Credits: ©2010 Watt Watt

All over the world, cities are installing solar-powered bus shelters. In Tucson, Arizona, for example, Sun Tran transit bus shelters utilize solar powered lights to reduce the amount of energy used to provide safe and well-lit waiting areas for passengers. Solar bus shelters are part of the effort to “green” transportation, along with green buildings, around the globe in railways, buses and even on the high seas. Solar electricity is having an impact at bus stops where there are three major concerns: safety, lighting and weather protection. are easily alleviated by solar-powered bus shelters. Solar bus shelters are already in use in cities across the U.S. and Europe. One of the latest innovations in this area is the PV-Stop from the Urban Solar Corporation. These LED-lit, solar-powered bus shelters are exemplary of the safe, viable and appealing role that solar bus shelters can and do play in public transportation. One high-profile example is in San Francisco, where the city opened the first of 1,200 new bus shelters. At least one-third of them will be powered by solar panels on the shelters' roofs. The panels will power lighting, an LED arrival-time display and a push-button loudspeaker for visually impaired riders. The shelters will be grid-connected with excess power fed back into the grid.


Solar Bus Shelter Lexington KY

Artstop in Lexington, Kentucky, uses solar technology to power all lighting. Voltaic Solar provided the battery-based solar system. ©2010 Voltaic Solar

In Seattle, which generally enjoys an average of 96 sunny days in a year, King County Metro Transit authority set up solar powered lights in Seattle bus shelters which, in fact, run absolutely fine. This unique lighting, called i-Shelter, is unique since it combines both solar power as well as software methodology. The solar energy is stored in batteries and the software regulates the light output. These solar-powered lights are especially adapted to the weather variations in Seattle and are brighter than traditional lighting. In addition to the solar-power lighting, internet access, an electronically-automated display with bus arrival times and push-button audio option especially for blind passengers are features in the Seattle bus shelters.

Companies like Sun Tran also use solar canopies to shade fleets of hundreds of buses while they’re parked at the base. In general, solar power technology is not advanced enough to power city buses in real time - that is, rooftop solar panels powering buses as they run daily routes. However, there is a steady rise among hybrid and electric buses that can power up at solar charging stations. Residential solar power is also being used to power transit facilities, bus stop shelters and to create alternative fuels for buses. It is in these somewhat indirect applications that solar power currently has its greatest effect on public transit.

Several projects in which solar power will play a pivotal role:

1. California - AC Transit of Oakland received $6.4 million to increase solar photovoltaic capacity at a facility that generates hydrogen for Oakland's fuel cell-powered, zero-emission buses. The City of Santa Clarita got over $4.6 million to add PV modules to its maintenance facility. The panels will be installed on canopies to provide shade for buses. Also in California, North County Transit District (San Diego) will use Recovery Act funding to install solar power at a variety of facilities.

2. Delaware - Delaware Transit Corporation received $1.5 million for solar panel installations at its facilities to offset the transit system's electricity costs.

3. Georgia - In Atlanta, $10.8 million has been approved for the Rapid Transit Authority to construct a grid-tied solar-powered shade structure at a bus storage lot. It will be the largest PV installation in Georgia.

4. Illinois - The Chicago Transit Authority received $1.5 million to build solar-powered outdoor bus stalls that will provide power for up to 80 vehicles, as well as heating and air conditioning to buses that would otherwise be left idling during cleaning. Elsewhere in Illinois, Rock Island Metro received $600,000 for a solar thermal system to provide hot water for its operations and maintenance building.

5. Massachusetts - Lowell Regional Transit Authority will install a solar system on its Hale Street facility, where buses are stored, fueled, maintained and repaired. The 70,000 square foot building also houses LRTA's administrative and dispatch services. LRTA was awarded $1.5 million to install the solar system.

6. Washington - Clark County Public Transportation in Vancouver received $1.5 million to improve systems and install solar panels at several facilities. The projects will combine energy efficiency upgrades with solar electricity to reduce the overall environmental impact of public transportation in Vancouver.


  Sun Tran Solar Bus Shelters Case Study (89 kb)